Estate Plans, Elder Law, Landlord-Tenant, General Practice

Attorney Andrew Bucklin 



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Landlord/Tenant Issues

Posted on March 2, 2018 at 8:50 AM Comments comments (2)

Landlord-tenant issues may seem simple but they actually quite complex. When a tenant has a dispute with his or her landlord (or vice versa), oftentimes the first reaction is to go on the Internet, look up the Massachusetts General Laws and try to figure it out without legal representation. The thought is, “why should I pay for a lawyer when all the laws are right there?”

The truth of the matter is that parties are costing themselves more money by not getting legal advice before disaster strikes, or by representing themselves in Court. I have recovered over four times the amount of a security deposit from a landlord for a former tenant. The tenant would not have been able to recover the security deposit by herself, never mind the damages. The landlord would never have suffered such a loss had they invested in competent legal representation before the tenancy began. Self- help doesn’t work!

Evicting tenants is costly for landlords. The eviction process demands strict compliance to the law and the Rules of Procedure. Many eviction cases last several months due to the landlord’s lack of experience with the process. This adds up to more administrative expenses in the form of additional Court fees. There is lost rental income that will never be recovered because of the landlord’s lack of knowledge in evictions. Conversely, tenants have rights under the law.

Tenants who show up to the eviction hearing without the benefit of legal representation are costing themselves dearly. There are many defenses to the landlord’s claims which can be used to prevent an unjust eviction or allow for the recovery of just compensation.

There is an old saying that states ““He who represents himself has a fool for a client”. This couldn’t be more true than in the case of landlord-tenant law!

Assembling Financial Documentation

Posted on February 14, 2017 at 10:25 AM Comments comments (1)

Assembling financial documentation is a key, but often overlooked, step in preparing your estate plan or planning for Masshealth/Medicaid. I would guess that most of us do not keep financial records to support a will and trust that is part of our estate plan nor in anticipation of applying for Masshealth/Medicaid. Keeping a file of important financial documents can make your life much easier possibly saving you or your estate hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

Access to documents guarantees creating an effective estate plan. The estate planning attorney can review the documents and determine if that asset is a good fit for your estate plan or if it has to be modified to meet the estate planning objective. There may be a need to change beneficiaries, re-title the asset, or sell the asset for something more appropriate. But, above all, being able to identify all assets and have the information to access them makes all the difference. We may become forgetful as we age. Some elderly clients who have postponed estate planning and did not keep good records are not able to locate their assets. An elderly client of mine did not keep records over her lifetime. She has several hundred thousand dollars in various investments, but cannot remember all of them. Her children have been trying to locate all of her assets, but will never be sure they found all of them. Imagine losing all the money you worked hard for because you did not keep a record.

A comprehensive file of documents will make your life much easier should the need arise to apply for MassHealth/Medicaid. There is a 5 year look-back period to qualify for MassHealth benefits. This means that MassHealth will review all the applicant’s financial transfers within 60 months. If the find a disqualifying transfer MassHealth benefits will be denied. The applicant will need to go through a fair hearing for approval. This means hiring an attorney, searching for supporting financial documents to support your application, and time away from work. Keeping records of financial transfers with a signed and dated note of the intent behind the transfer will prove invaluable in seeking MassHealth approval. It will be much easier to prove that the transfer of money was not made to qualify for MassHealth benefits.

Lastly, having estate planning documents such as a will and trusts along with financial documents in a file will make administering your estate much easier for your personal representative. To do otherwise is to dump a mess in their lap to sort out wasting their time and energy. Complete records reduce costs which allow more money to your beneficiaries. A personal representative may not be able to track down all of your assets and liabilities in order to maximize the devise to your beneficiaries after you are gone. Locating assets, contacting banks, business in the financial industry, and insurance companies will take a lot of time, effort, and expense, not to mention frustration, to get your money to your estate for distribution. This could take a year or more.

Assembling financial documentation is easy to do in today’s computerized world. The above stated reasons explain why it is important for all of us to do this. It will make your life so much easier.


Do I Really Need a Will?

Posted on January 24, 2017 at 1:30 PM Comments comments (0)

The answer is yes everyone should have a will. Any responsible person realizes the need to have documents in place to wind-up their personal affairs after they pass away. Leaving behind an expensive and time consuming mess for your family to sort out after you pass away is irresponsible. A will is the simplest way to do this.

A will is a legal document containing the wishes of the Testator (person making the will) as to how their property will be passed on after death. The will allows the Testator to maintain control of his estate even after death. The Testator selects who they want to be their Personal Representative. The Personal Representative’s job is to collect all the probate assets, pay any debts and taxes, and distribute the remaining property to the persons selected by the Testator. Also, the Testator can nominate a person of their choosing to serve as guardian for minor children. Lastly, a will can be changed if your life’s circumstances change. All this control is possible with a valid will in place.

Without a will the State selects who your personal Representative will be and who get your property. A decedent has no say in the process. People who should not get your property may have it. Those who you want to have it won’t get it. The possibility of family unrest is almost assured without a will. These things cannot be changed.

A will provides specific directions to the personal representative that you have personally selected to wind up your affairs. The Personal Representative will follow the instructions spelled out in the will making the Personal Representative job much easier. The will prevents any argument or question about who gets what and how. The elimination of hostility within your family is priceless.

Even those with a modest estate should have a will. The amount of property or money you pass on is not as important as having the right person get it and preventing family problems. A will is not expensive. Typical costs are a few hundred dollars to have a will drafted and executed. The costs of not having a will through increased work for the Personal representative and associated expenses and potential court costs are in the thousands of dollars.


Life Planning Strategy

Posted on November 8, 2016 at 7:25 AM Comments comments (1)

How can anyone enjoy their life with unfinished business or upsetting thoughts weighing on their mind? Imagine every second of every day dwelling on things you find unpleasant or you really don’t want to do. I used to be one of those people. Negative thoughts and fears paralyzed me from taking control of my life. I was stuck in a self-defeating cycle. After many years, I realized that I am not happy living like this. My thinking is preventing me from enjoying life. I learned how to be happy and enjoy my life.

Problem-solving is the key. Identify the problem and possible solutions, and act on the best solution. Solving the problem is what freed my mind from the self-defeating cycle. The self-defeating thoughts disappeared and were replaced with the positive and serene. I had peace of mind! Procrastinating about getting an estate plan in place is the perfect example.

Discussions I have had about estate planning suggest thoughts that follow the pattern above. The conversation starts with someone saying, “I need a will, but I don’t have the time for that now; too much going on.” Others deny their responsibility to their family. They say, “I don’t want to think about that now.” Others delay facing the problem by continually postponing it by turning everyday events into a big problem that requires all their attention. Others believe that estate planning is for “rich” people or some other reason designed to save them from solving the problem. Ultimately, these people do not act. Ironically, we have the same conversation months or years later. Yes, they’re still thinking about it.

My point here is to estate planning enhances your quality of life. The problem is you know you need an estate plan, but you never go through with it. Solve the problem and free your mind so that you get on with your life and focus on the good things.